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South Peninsula Hospital has increased its level of action and preparedness since getting confirmation of Homer’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 within the community.
The positive case announced Saturday is the first within the Homer area, but the second case of a Homer resident. The first Homer resident to test positive was tested and isolated in Anchorage.
The hospital has upgraded its Hospital Incident Command System level to 3, said hospital Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro. This represents a shift from planning to action, she wrote in an email. Ferraro has previously told the Homer News that the hospital has already moved some of its services, like physical therapy and infusion, to alternate care sites.
The hospital has also elevated its Infectious Disease Plan to level 3, Ferraro said, based on the first confirmed case in the Homer area.
As of Monday morning, South Peninsula Hospital has sent 56 samples off for testing, Ferraro wrote. So far, 36 have come back negative. The rest are pending, other than the one confirmed positive case from Saturday.
There are currently no patients who are confirmed positive for COVID-19 being hospitalized at SPH, Ferraro said.
South Peninsula Hospital has reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a Homer resident within the city.
A person who was tested at the local hospital “earlier this week” is positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to a Saturday evening press release from the City of Homer Unified Command.
This is the second COVID-19 case to involve a resident of Homer, but the first one to occur actually within the city. The first case was that of a Homer resident who was returning from traveling outside the state. The person was tested when they landed in Anchorage, and remained in Anchorage for isolation.
The second Homer resident’s test was conducted by the Alaska State Public Health Laboratory. According to the press release, public health nurses in Homer are conducting an investigation into contacts the second person who tested positive may have had with others.
“Public Health Nurses will reach out to any person who may have come into contact with this individual,” the release states. “Public Health will notify each significant contact and offer instructions for preventing the spread of disease including quarantine, isolation if sick and contacting your primary care provider for evaluation and potential testing.”
There is no other information about the second individual who has tested positive at this time, the release states. The Homer News has asked for the exact date that the person was tested at South Peninsula Hospital.
“The first confirmed case locally reinforces the urgency for all individuals to take this seriously and do their part to prevent the spread,” wrote Homer Public Information Officer Jenny Carroll in the press release. “The individual actions of each and every one of us in Homer are important to prevent, slow and disrupt the spread of the virus, both in our community and across Alaska. … Together, we can keep each other healthy and save lives.”
Including this new case in Homer, Alaska’s total tally of COVID-19 grew by 17 on Saturday, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. A second case has also been reported in Soldotna, bringing the total number of cases associated with Kenai Peninsula residents to seven.
On Saturday the state also reported on its website that six people are now hospitalized for treatment.
Also on March 29, DHSS reported another Alaskan has died from COVID-19. The latest death is a 73-year-old Anchorage resident who was tested on March 23, admitted to an Anchorage hospital, and died on the evening of March 28. That person is the second Alaskan to die in state and the third Alaska resident to die. The first Alaskan resident to die was a Southeast Alaska resident who died in Washington state after an extended stay there, and the second was a 63-year-old woman with underlying health conditions who died Friday, March 27 at Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.
DHSS reported a total of 114 cases in the state as of Sunday evening. In the latest report, DHSS announced 12 new confirmed cases of COVID-19: four in Anchorage, one in Eagle River, four in Fairbanks, one in North Pole, one in Juneau and one in Ketchikan.
As of March 28, 3,654 people had been tested for COVID-19 in Alaska.
According to DHSS, so far the communities in Alaska that have had laboratory-confirmed cases are Anchorage (including Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson), Eagle River/Chugiak, Girdwood, Fairbanks, North Pole, Homer, Juneau, Ketchikan, Palmer, Seward, Soldotna and Sterling.
Anchorage has the most positive tests with 53, 20 in Fairbanks, 13 in Ketchikan, eight in North Pole, five in Juneau, five in Eagle River/Chugiak, two in Palmer, two in Sterling, two in Soldotna, two associated with Homer residents and and one each in Seward and Girdwood.
According to the DHSS press release sent Saturday night, two of the new cases announced Saturday are known to be travel-related. Five of the new cases are from someone having close contact with previously diagnosed individuals, and 10 of the new cases are still under investigation.
Five of the new cases are older adults (60+); two are adults aged 30-59; four are younger adults aged 19-29 and one is under 18. Six are female and six are male. Six of the cases are close contacts of previously diagnosed cases; one is travel-related and five are still under investigation.
Three of Saturday’s new cases are in Fairbanks. Of those three cases, one is a resident in a long-term care facility. This is Alaska’s first case involving a person in such a facility.
The organization in charge of the long-term care facility, Foundation Health Partners, is taking steps to respond to the case and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to the DHSS press release.
According to a local update from South Peninsula Hospital Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro, the hospital had conducted 42 tests for COVID-19 by Saturday morning, 22 of which have come back negative. The hospital now has one positive test, which means 19 are still pending.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information and details from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services about Sunday’s new cases and the long-term care facility case in Fairbanks.